BIG led by Bjark Ingels has proposed a twisting timber tower as part of a design competition to renovate and expand the Kimball Art Center in Park City, UT. The green renovation of the existing historic structure will be combined with a new tower to expand the arts and culture center. Inspired by historic mining buildings from the ski town's past, BIG's concept makes use of reclaimed trestlewood from train tracks to build the new gallery and exhibition space. A number of other sustainable strategies, like solar power, rainwater collection, a high performing thermal envelope and daylighting will play into the design to give the town a new landmark tower and a name in the international arts world.
The Kimball Art Center is a central hub within the old town district of Park City, UT and is located in the historic gas station and garage of Bill Kimball, who donated it to become an arts and cultural center. Looking to expand, the Kimball Art Center invited 5 internationally-recognized architecture firms to draft up concepts and proposals for an exciting new landmark building. BIG is currently competing against 4 other firms to win the award to design the center and their competitors include Brooks + Scarpa, Sparano + Mooney Architecture, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects, and Will Bruder + Partners. Over this next week, we will cover all 5 proposals and ask you, our readers, which design you think is best.
Park City, UT was born during the age of mining and remnants of its history surround and weave throughout the city. Mining ruins are still much a part of the landscape even while the ski industry leads the way for the town’s economy now. BIG took inspiration from the mining history and especially the Silver King Coalition Mine Building erected in 1901, which stood as the tallest building for 80 years until it burnt to the ground in 1982. Built from heavy timbers, the Coalition Building could be seen from everywhere in town and BIG wanted to recreate that landmark tower through the Kimball Arts Center. The existing historic building of the Kimball will remain, but will be expanded upon with a twisting timber form that will house the gallery and exhibition spaces.
The Kimball Arts Center hosts a variety of events from art openings, parties, weddings, book signing, art classes, talks and movies and serves as an important venue for the Sundance Film Festival. Beyond exhibiting art, the center must provide for a variety of programs and BIG has also incorporated all the necessary spaces into their design. Classrooms and storage are located in the basement, with a lobby and gift shop located on the ground floor. New kitchen and restaurant facilities will be added, along with a rooftop terrace, theatre space and a variety of expanded gallery and exhibition spaces.
Built from heavy timbers of reclaimed trestlewood, the twisting volume is heavily insulated and protected against the cold winters. Skylights in both the renovated and new spaces along with specially placed windows pull in natural daylight, while natural ventilation reduces the need for mechanical cooling. A ground coupled heat exchanger is combined with solar thermal for energy efficient heating, while solar photovoltaic window films over the skylights generate power for the building. Rainwater is collected off the tower’s rooftop terrace and the larger rooftop garden to be used as grey water in the building.
As a resident of Park City* and someone deeply involved in the arts in my community I’ve got some very strong opinions about what the Kimball should become. As I’ll be covering all 5 design proposals, I’d also like to offer up my own thoughts as to how each would work or not work. BIG’s proposal is very strong in the sense of the massive structure they’ve designed as well as how it fits within the context of the city. Before the proposals were unveiled, I expected something more outlandish from Mr. Ingels, but was glad to see that he and his team restrained themselves a bit.
I appreciate the obvious connections with our mining heritage along with the use of timber, which is a part of our vernacular. BIG’s design is at once both rustic and modern, combining natural elements like wood along with sleek finishes and crisp lines. The hulking timber tower harkens to the history of the city and gives the arts center a prominent silhouette set against the vernacular of the homes, old town main street and the ski slopes behind. While the idea of an iconic landmark tower for the city is great, I’m concerned the form is too harsh and too heavy.
The interior seems spacious and modern, but perhaps a bit too spartan. This interior might appeal to the more international crowd that will visit the center, but for the local residents, myself included, it’s a bit too cosmopolitan. The incorporation of sustainable strategies is adequate, although I don’t think they’ve gone above and beyond what is possible – they could’ve have gone bigger. That being said, Kimball Art Center serves as the arts and cultural hub for the town and a new center built by someone as well known as BIG could raise the center’s status in the international arts community as well. If you’re in Park City, UT during the next month, be sure to hit up the Kimball Art Center to see all 5 models and project boards.
Images ©BIG courtesy of Kimball Arts Center and ©Bridgette Meinhold
* Bridgette Meinhold calls Park City, UT home and is intimately involved in the activities of the Kimball Art Center. She has watched the design competition closely since it first began and will continue to provide in-depth, first hand info on the project as it evolves.